"Devil’s Disguises"?

Archpriest George M. Benigsen

(Notes from a Hospital Bed)

In the newspaper Den’ (No. 39, Sept. 27-Oct. 3, 1992) published in Russia, there appeared an interview with His Eminence Metropolitan Vitaly, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, in which the Metropolitan responded to a series of general questions concerning the Russian Orthodox Church under the jurisdiction of or in contact with the Moscow Patriarchate. Except for the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which is headed by Metropolitan Vitaly, all other Christian churches, apparently, are considered heretical. In the interview they are referred to as "devil’s disguises."

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It has been God’s will that for some time I have been in hospital gravely ill. Under these circumstances, I have no time or need to analyze this rather strange interview. The hospital where I am a patient is run by the Seventh Day Adventists and is located not far from the church where I serve. I know that my Holy Church is praying for me, and I am grateful for the prayers of my Orthodox brethren, lay people, priests and bishops, who have brought Holy Communion to me and have given my the Sacrament of Holy Unction.

But in this Protestant hospital I have been surrounded with truly Christian love, care and prayer. My chief physician, having finished his first medical consultation with me, asked my permission to pray, and he asked God for His help to me, the doctors, and my family. A nurse (a Protestant), attending me at home and at the hospital, on every visit kneels by my bed in prayer. Other nurses and attendants, knowing that I am an Orthodox priest, do the same.

In considering all the "dangers" of ecumenism, how can one dispute that what I am experiencing in my critical condition in this hospital is a true expression of Christian love for one’s neighbor? This is practical ecumenism, which would be a sin to call a "devil’s disguise."


Archpriest George Benigsen

Callistoga, California

Russkaya Mysl’, Paris, No. 3990, July 29 - August 4, 1993

Translated from the Russian.